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LIAISON PILOTS

Posted 10/9/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
 
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Noorduyn C-64
A 3rd Air Commando Group Noorduyn C-64 Norseman. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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World War II produced another group of enlisted pilots, whose wings bore an "L" in the center, to fly light single-engine liaison aircraft. Included were many enlisted aviation students who washed out of pilot training after having soloed and were given the opportunity to become liaison pilots. Flight training consisted of about 60 hours of flying time and stressed such procedures as short field landings and takeoffs over obstacles, low altitude navigation, first aid, day and night reconnaissance, aerial photography and aircraft maintenance.

Unarmored and unarmed -- except perhaps for a .45 pistol or .30 carbine -- these men in 28 different squadrons flew low and slow with wheels, skis or floats. They flew varied and often hazardous missions in nearly every theater -- medical evacuation from forward areas; delivering munitions, blood plasma, mail and other supplies to front lines; ferrying personnel; flying photographic or intelligence missions; serving as air observers for fighters or bombers; and other critical yet often unpublicized missions.

Variety of Duties
During the campaign to recapture the Philippines, pilots of the 25th Liaison Squadron flew a dozen L-5 aircraft in short 30-minute flights (Dec. 10-25, 1944) delivering supplies (including a 300-bed hospital) to the 6,000 men of the 11th Airborne Division isolated in the mountains of Leyte. In another mission, an Army officer wounded in the chest in New Guinea was evacuated in a liaison aircraft as the pilot pumped a portable respirator with one hand while he flew the aircraft with the other. In the northwestern United States, some liaison pilots flew forest patrols (Project Firefly), watching for fires ignited by incendiary bombs carried across the Pacific beneath unmanned Japanese high-altitude balloons.

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